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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

India and Pakistan face off over Kashmir - latest news

In the wake of the downing of two Indian jets over Kashmir, the world warns against escalation

  • Skirmishes in border area risk erupting into conflict
  • India asks for captured jet pilot to be returned
  • Countries around the world ban terror group responsible for Kashmir attack
  • Pakistan call for talks to settle the dispute

Relations between India and Pakistan are at their lowest point in decades in the aftermath of both countries breaching the Line of Control in Kashmir.

On Wednesday Pakistani jets bombed Indian military installations and shot down two Indian planes that crossed the Line of Control, capturing one pilot.

As leaders from around the world warned against escalation, Pakistan said they did not want war, while India called the action unprovoked.

Read more: Explained: Kashmir: A mountainous region plagued by a decades-old fault line | Analysis: Why India and Pakistan must step back from the brink

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Indian Air Force display evidence of downed Pakistani jet

The Indian Air Force on Thursday presented evidence of a Pakistani F-16 jet shot down on Wednesday.

The air force displayed fragments of an Amraan air-to-air missile, which can only be loaded onto an F-16 aircraft, at a joint press briefing with the army and navy.

India said they had downed one Pakistani jet on Wednesday, but little has been reported since.

They also said there continue to be violations of the Line of Control, which they say is met with a proportional response.

There was no damage caused to India's military installations by Pakistan's attack, the air force spokesperson said.

The Indian Navy also said they are in a state of combat readiness.

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Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi stresses importance of dialogue and co-operation

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, spoke to the prime ministers of India and Pakistan to stress the "importance of dealing wisely with recent developments and giving priority to dialogue and communication," he said on Twitter.

Sheikh Mohamed is currently in Singapore as part of his Asia tour.

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Pakistani airspace to remain closed until Friday afternoon

Airspace across Pakistan will remain closed until Friday afternoon, the Civil Aviation Authority announced.

Pakistan's skies will reopen at 08:00 EST on March 1, which is 18:00 UTC+5.

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Cabinet Committee on Security meeting chaired by India's PM Modi begins

A meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, which involves members of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi began on Thursday afternoon.

The meeting was expected to take place much earlier on Thursday, but it was delayed shortly after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced he would free the captured Indian Air Force pilot.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urges leaders not to escalate

Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, urged the leaders of India and Pakistan to avoid "any action that would escalate and greatly increase risk".

Mr Pompeo also spoke with foreign ministers from India and Pakistan on Wednesday.

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Fresh fighting on Line of Control

Pakistani soldiers fired guns and mortar rounds at approximately two dozen Indian military posts on Thursday, an Indian spokesman told the Associated Press.

Lt Col Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, says Pakistani troops attacked forward posts along the Line of Control calling it an "unprovoked" violation of the 2003 cease-fire accord. He said Indian soldiers were responding to the ongoing Pakistani multiple attacks along the highly militarized de-facto frontier.

Mr Anand said shells were also landing in some civilian areas near the frontier. Police said at least two people, an off-duty soldier and a woman, were injured in the shelling.

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Russian Foreign Minister says Moscow would host peace talks between India and Pakistan

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would hold talks between India and Pakistan to find a solution to the conflict, the TASS news agency reported.

"Certainly, if they wish this," Mr Lavrov said in answer to a question by the Russian news agency.

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Indian and Pakistani residents in the UAE watch Kashmir standoff with concern

The fallout from Wednesday's escalation has rippled across the Indian Ocean to the UAE, where close to four million people from both countries are watching on with increasing concern.

Many are worried about family and friends back home and are frustrated at the closed airspace. But the story is also one of friendship, understanding and an appreciation for a troubled but shared history.

“I feel tense and worried,” said Baljeet Singh, 39, whose mother and father live in Delhi. “If there is an emergency, it will be very hard to get home.”

Read John Dennehy's full story here

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Captured pilot to be freed on Friday, Imran Khan says

In a gesture of peace and goodwill India's captured pilot will be released by Pakistan on Friday, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan says in Parliament.

Indian officials claim they did not have to make a deal with Pakistan for the pilot's release.

They sought and secured the pilot's unconditional release, an Indian government source told's Himendra Kumar for The National.

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Saudi Foreign Minister to visit Pakistan

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir and Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a meeting earlier in February. EPA
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir and Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a meeting earlier in February. EPA

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir will visit Pakistan on Thursday with a special message from the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.

It is not clear whether it is related to the ongoing crisis, but Prince Mohammed visited both India and Pakistan earlier this month.

Mr Qureshi says he spoke to Mr Jubeir on the phone the previous night but did not give further details.

The Saudi Foreign Minister will arrive in Islamabad on a private plane even though Pakistan temporarily closed its airspace to all civilian traffic amid tensions with India.

Pakistan's airspace showed signs of opening up on Thursday.

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Pakistan ready to hand over pilot to India if it eases tensions

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi talks with journalists in Islamabad on Wednesday. EPA
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi talks with journalists in Islamabad on Wednesday. EPA

Pakistan's foreign ministry said it will hand over the captured Indian pilot if it will lead to a "de-escalation".

"We are willing to return the captured Indian pilot if it leads to de-escalation," Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was quoted as saying on Geo TV.

Mr Qureshi also said Saudi Arabia's foreign minister was expected to visit Islamabad with a special message from Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who visited both Pakistan and India earlier this month.

In another sign of easing tensions, Pakistan's foreign ministry said India handed over its file on the deadly Kashmir bombing that sparked the current escalation in tensions.

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Pakistani airspace begins to reopen with flights to UAE

Airspace across Pakistan begins to reopen, with the first flight heading to Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE. Screengrab/FlightRadar24
Airspace across Pakistan begins to reopen, with the first flight heading to Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE. Screengrab/FlightRadar24

Airspace over Pakistan has reopened for some flights.

FlightRadar24, a flight tracking tool, said some flights have taken off from airports in Pakistan.

The first flight to take off was an Air Arabia flight to Ras Al Khaimah, it said.

Pakistan International Airlines, the national airline of the country, said on its Twitter that some flights to the UAE and Saudi Arabia will depart on Thursday.

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Captured Indian pilot becomes the face of an escalating conflict

The Indian pilot who was shot down over Pakistan has become the national hero in India and a key bargaining chip for Islamabad.

Footage of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has spread across social media in India and Pakistan.

One video shows WCdr Varthaman being beaten by a mob near where he landed in Kashmir, while another shows the Indian air force pilot, bloody-faced, being bundled into a car by the Pakistan military.

Another the captive speaking to the camera, face swolen and bruised, sipping tea explaining how well he has been treated by the Pakistani army. It is unclear if he was forced to speak.

In Pakistan, soldiers were praised for saving Mr Varthaman from angry citizens, while in India #GivebackAbhinandan and #Abhinandanmyhero was quickly trending on Twitter where his stoicism elevated him to national hero status.

On Wednesday, New Delhi objected to the "vulgar display of an injured personnel", saying his treatment is in breach of international law. While Islamabad said he "would be treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions."

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Donald Trump says Pakistan and India have 'been going at it'

US President Donald Trump speaks after a two-day summit in Vietnam. Getty
US President Donald Trump speaks after a two-day summit in Vietnam. Getty

US President Donald Trump said the United States was trying to stop India and Pakistan from "going at it", at a press conference in Vietnam.

Speaking after denuclearisation talks fell apart with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Mr Trump said there has been "reasonably attractive news from Pakistan and India."

"They’ve been going at it, and we’ve been involved in trying to have them stop," he said.

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UAE flights to Pakistan suspended for second day

Pakistan's commercial airspace remained closed for a second day, causing a funnel of air traffic over the Arabian Gulf.

As airspace over Pakistan remains shut for a second day, planes are being forced to fly over the Arabian Gulf. Screenshot/FlightRadar24
As airspace over Pakistan remains shut for a second day, planes are being forced to fly over the Arabian Gulf. Screenshot/FlightRadar24

Etihad Airways cancelled a string of flights on Wednesday and Thursday, including both the outbound and return legs of flights from Abu Dhabi to Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. Other UAE airlines followed suit.

Abu Dhabi airport put out a statement on Twitter asking passengers to contact their airlines for more information.

They said all flights to Pakistan from Abu Dhabi International Airport and Al Ain Airport are cancelled.

Read more

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Schools shut and trains cancelled across Pakistan

Indian passenger Abida Bano cries at Lahore railway station after learning the suspension of the Samjhuta Express that runs from Lahore to New Delhi. AP Photo
Indian passenger Abida Bano cries at Lahore railway station after learning the suspension of the Samjhuta Express that runs from Lahore to New Delhi. AP Photo

Schools across Pakistani-controlled Kashmir were closed on Thursday as tensions mounted on Thursdays.

Train services linking the Pakistani city of Lahore with India has also been suspended until "the security situation improves, Pakistan's foreign ministry said.

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World leaders urge restraint

Leaders of countries from around the world urged restraint in the wake of escalating tensions in Kashmir.

The United States, China, the United Kingdom and the European Union all called for calm.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he spoke separately with the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan and urged them to avoid "further military activity".

In a video posted on Twitter, Britain's foreign secretary said neither side wants to see this escalate further and the situation will take a "really critical restraint in the coming days".

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Fire traded across Kashmir border

Indian and Pakistani traded fire briefly along the contested border in Kashmir on Thursday, Reuters report.

Poonch, a district in Indian-occupied Kashmir, the Indian army said.

"The Indian army retaliated strongly and effectively," said Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand, a defence ministry spokesman, claimimg the trade of fire was initiated by Pakistan and lasted for a little over an hour beginning at 0600 local time (04:30am UAE).

Pakistan said the firing began overnight.

"The firing continued in intervals throughout the night. It was moderate," said Shaukat Yusufzai, an administration official in the Pakistan-controlled part of Poonch.

Tensions in Kashmir
Tensions in Kashmir

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Thai Airways cancels flights to Europe due to Pakistani airspace closure

Stranded passengers wait the Thai Airways ticket counter at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. AFP
Stranded passengers wait the Thai Airways ticket counter at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. AFP

Thai Airways International said on Thursday it had cancelled more than a dozen flights to Europe after Pakistan closed its airspace amid rising tensions with India, with both claiming to have shot down the other's military jets.

Thai flights to and from cities in Europe were cancelled because they had been scheduled to fly over Pakistani airspace on Thursday, Thai Airways said in a statement.

The cities affected included London, Munich, Paris, Brussels, Milan, Vienna, Stockholm, Zurich, Copenhagen, Oslo, Frankfurt, and Rome.

In addition, all flights to and from Pakistan were cancelled on Thursday, the airline said.

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US, UK and France ask UN to blacklist head of Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group behind convoy attack

The United States, Britain and France proposed on Wednesday that the United Nations Security Council blacklist the head of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, which said it attacked an Indian paramilitary convoy in disputed Kashmir.

However, the move is likely to be opposed by China, which previously prevented the Security Council's ISIS and Al Qaeda sanctions committee from sanctioning JeM leader Masood Azhar in 2016 and 2017.

Updated: February 28, 2019 06:40 PM

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